Johannesburg – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and a panel of experts presented an update to the public on where we are as a country in the fight against Covid-19.
The online public engagement was led by Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a world-renowned HIV scientist and infectious diseases epidemiologist.
Karim said that since the implementation of the national lockdown on March 26, South Africa has managed to slow the number of Covid-19 infections
Before the lockdown, Karim said the number of infections were increasing in line with global trajectories but this changed dramatically once the lockdown was implemented.
Karim said that when comparing SA’s Covid-19 “line” with other countries like China and the United Kingdom, the data showed the epidemic trajectory of this country was unique.
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There were three possible reasons for this, he said.
If South Africa was conducting fewer tests, or conducting testing mainly in the private sector, then a clear picture of the situation among the poorer sectors of the population was not being shown. The third possible reason, Karim said, was that the reduction could for some reason be genuine and a direct result of government’s interventions.
During Karim’s presentation he showed that the first scenario was unlikely as testing for Covid-19 has increased dramatically in recent weeks and that said National Health Laboratory Service has “sharply increased” its testing in “townships and the communities” across the country.
Karim also explained the three waves of infection experienced in the country. The first was from people who had travelled abroad and returned home with the coronavirus. The second wave is the people who interacted directly with the first group of infected patients and the third is local transmissions.
The travel ban which was implemented shortly after SA’s first identified infections and the subsequent lockdown means that this first wave is now coming to an end, he said.
While it had been expected that the second wave, those people who were infected by coming into contact with the returning travellers, would spread the virus this was not the case and this wave was largely contained, Karim said.
He warned, however, that once the lockdown ended the infection rate is expected to spike, especially since patients only started showing symptoms of infection after 7 – 10 days, by which time they could have transmitted the coronavirus to everyone the came into contact with since being infected.
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s special #Coronavirus page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za
By Lou-Anne Daniels